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Writing about Lists of Best Books

Browsing Books as per Best Books Lists

I have always believed that books should be read for their own sake. I’ve never really pursued award-winning books, or books featuring on “best of” lists of any kind.

But lately, I ‘ve been going to sales by Payless books, where I have picked up books for 3-6 RM, or 1-2 USD. At such times, though I have picked up books at random, by reading blurbs, what’s inside for a page or two, etc. I’ve been wondering if I’m missing out on good books.

A book winning an award or being on someone’s “best-books” list is not necessarily a book I will enjoy (enjoyment and not education has always been my prime motive, lol).

But I’ve come to realize that when poring cross-eyed through badly arranged rows of books can be a blinding and painful process, and one that is often enough not rewarding despite the throwaway prices. This is because I sometimes miss books I ought to have picked, if only for their value as part of my collection. Or maybe because they may come in handy some day I decide I need to read a book because it is highly recommended.

I’ve been collecting a list of lists, so to speak, of books I should pick up at such sales. Today, I thought why not share it, and maybe somebody in some corner of the earth may find it useful.

So, here, goes:

The Booker Prize-winning Books List : This is of course somewhat of a bible for readers who aspire to be writers of literary fiction, and most of the books featured on this list have undeniable merit.

The Pulitzer-winning Books List: Ditto for this one.

Times 100 Best Novels List: This is a pretty authoritative list, and though I do not agree with all the choices, and feel I can add to the list, that is just another subjective viewpoint. All the books in this list deserve a look-see.

A Best British Novelists List: Having grown up in a country with a colonial past, this is of course the list of which I have read the most books. A whole lot of them were part of my college curriculum.

Oprah’s Book Club Top Ten List: I would never have thought I would include this list but I have read some of the books on it, and they are not bad.

An Indian Fiction List: I am an Indian after all, and while this is definitely not the list for me, and some of the best novelists in regional languages have been missed out, it still gives an idea of the sort of books Indian authors in English have earned praise for.

A List of Top Ten Books Set in Japan:
I am slowly exploring works written in Japan, and find this list intriguing. Murakami has become a firm favorite, and I will sure pick up the books by other Japanese authors. Whether I will find them at used book sales in Malaysia is a different question altogether.

A List of Top Russian Works in the Twentieth Century: I was introduced to Russian Literature fairly young, and though I have not read a few on this list, I’ve liked what I’ve read.

A list of Best Russian Works of All Time: Ditto on this one.

50 Outstanding Translations from the Last 50 Years: I have always been interested in books written all over the world, and am currently reading two translations. This list does overlap with a few of the others, but I see no harm in that 🙂

25 Greatest Novels of the 21st Century so far: This list is again a subjective opinion, but one I happen to agree with it in parts.

The Best Work of American Fiction in the Last Twenty Five Years: Ditto on this one.

A List Of Latin American Literature: This is not the best list ever, but one that will work, for now. I wish I could find a more exhaustive and representative list though.

Although I have been a fan of a few French, African and German authors, I have not found good lists for any of them so far. I would continue searching, and edit this post when I find them.

At the next book sale when I’m going crazy, I’ll try and keep a print-out of some of these lists (I hope). In the meanwhile, if anyone has list of books to add, feel free to do it in the comments section.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Damyanti says:

    You are welcome, MM:)

  • Mental Mist says:

    Will return to this when I run out, Thanks!

  • Damyanti says:

    I totally agree with you about finding treasure troves if you look without prejudice. That is what lists are, after all, prejudices of a sort.

    But I want to experiment with a list at least once when I’m going crazy during sales.

    Thanks for dropping by, and hope to see you again.

  • Sumedh says:

    seem to me to wish
    to clench the world’s best
    in a fist.

    But it pains
    and in abundance the rest

    Happy Reading! 🙂

    I personally have had a different kind of an experience with throwaway books though. As a kid, my school library annually gave away amazing books in tattered conditions almost for free.

    I found some of my favourite writers waiting for me there.

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